May is always one of my favorite months for new books. We're heading into summer and it's a prime time to pick up a good new young adult novel. Our editors' picks for the best of May includes a couple of familiar faces, including the latest from this year's Printz Medal winner, and two stunning debuts. One beloved fantasy trilogy is coming to an end, but we also have the first book in an exciting new series to fill the gap. Spooky, sweet, magical, and empowering--you'll find it all in the books below.
Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly
In Stepsister, Jennifer Donnelly puts her own twist on the Cinderella classic. Instead of following the beautiful servant girl from rags to riches, Stepsister is the story of Isabella, one of the ugly stepsisters. You know this is going to be something different when the book opens on Cinderella's stepmother forcing Isabella and her sister to cut off parts of their feet to try to fit the glass slipper. The deception is discovered, and while Cinderella is off to the castle the rest of the family is shunned and shamed. A dark tale that looks at beauty, empowerment, and redemption, Stepsister is something special.
Finale: A Caraval Novel by Stephanie Garber
The final book in Stephanie Garber's magical trilogy brings us to an unexpected and exciting conclusion. Legendary ended with some big surprises and plenty of questions, and in Finale Garber answers them all. It's hard to write about the last book in a series without giving it away for those who haven't read the previous installments, so suffice it to say that there is no shortage of romantic entanglements and nail-biting action. Caraval may be over but now the fate of the Meridian Empire is at stake, and the magic and mystery of the Fates adds another layer of intrigue. If you haven't started this trilogy yet, you're in for a treat.
The Things She's Seen by Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina
I'm so glad I picked up this debut novel. It grabbed my attention right away and I burned through it in one sitting. If you liked The Lovely Bones, then The Things She's Seen is one you won't want to miss. Part thriller, part ghost story, The Things She's Seen uncovers terrible crimes both past and present including an injustice perpetrated by the Australian government against the Aboriginals. Beth Teller is dead, but her detective father can still see her and she's caught up in the mystery of a deadly fire set in a children's home. Isobel Catching is the only witness, but she trusts no one and is caught up in mysteries of her own. Narrated by both girls, The Things She's Seen is fascinating and original.
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
This is Elizabeth Acevedo's first book since Poet X, which took home multiple awards including the National Book Award for Young People's Literature and the 2019 Printz Medal. Like Poet X Acevedo's latest is told in verse, and once again her words flow effortlessly through the pages. With the Fire on High is about a high school senior who is also the mother of a baby girl. Emoni Santiago is determined and resilient, finishing school, working, and taking care of her baby and abuela. Emoni also has a passion for cooking that is contagious. Her joy becomes your joy as you read. Emoni is a character you cheer for, in her powerful moments and when she makes mistakes. She's believable and wonderful in a novel that hits home on themes of family, relationships, and pursuing dreams.
Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen
Need a new fantasy series to sink your teeth into? This is the one. Alternating narrators tell the story of a world ruled by the seas and the gods, where East and West must never meet. Teriana is a pirate and also heir to the Maarin Triumvirate. Her people keep the secrets of the seas and are able to do what no others can. The Maarin have always been free to roam the seas, but with the installment of a new ruling empire, that could all come to an end forever. Teriana forms an uneasy alliance with Marcus, leader of the feared Thirty-Seventh legion, who has a secret of his own that he will do anything to protect. Dark Shores reminded me of reading Ember in the Ashes for the incredible world building, a Roman feel to the empire, and complex characters. I can't wait for the next book....
Hope and Other Punch Lines by Julie Buxbaum
The author of Tell Me Three Things and What to Say Next is back with a new novel about love, friendship, and reinvention. The story centers around Abbi Hope Goldstein, a teenager who, 15 years earlier, was the subject of an iconic photo taken as the Twin Towers fell behind her, earning her the nickname Baby Hope. Abbi wants to escape the lingering notoriety, and have a normal summer as a camp counselor for children who were born long after the events of September 11th, 2001. Her plan is thwarted by a fellow counselor named Noah who also had his life turned upside down by 9/11. Together they look back and go deeper into how this moment in history shaped them, in a novel that is powerful and thoughtful. For anyone who experienced that fateful day, as an adult or a young person, this is a book that will resonate with you.
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